Ki Tetze Batmitzvah
Shabbat Shalom everybody. I would like to share a few words with you about this week’s sedra Ki Teitsei from the book of Dvarim.
Becoming BatMitzvah is all about taking on responsibility and following the commandments and so it is very appropriate that the sedra Ki Teitsei contains the most mitzvot of all the sedrot in the Torah – over 70! The mitzvot range from; how to fight wars, how to grow crops, how to care for animals, which clothes one should wear and family values. They range from ethical mitzvoth - how we treat people, and also rituals such as how we treat Hashem. Many major principles of Judaism are contained in this sedra.
When I looked in more detail at this sedra, I recognised that some of the mitzvot may seem rather old fashioned, however, I understood that the overall message of all the mitzvot are relevant today, for example, that of caring for animals. A horse can be used for riding but we must be sure not to abuse it while using it for this purpose. We all need to be aware that animals too have feelings. We must all understand where to draw the line in all aspects of our lives in order to live an honest moral life.
The sedra also teaches us about compassion. It gives an example of a mother bird protecting her eggs…’ki yikray kan tsipor lefanecha baderech .. vha-em rovetset al haefrochim oh al habeytsim, lo tikach haem al habanim. Shalayach t-shalach et haem v-et habanim tikach lach Lmaan yeetav lach vhaarachta yamim’ "If, along the road, you chance upon a bird's nest ... with the mother sitting on the young or the eggs, do not take the mother, with her young. Send away the mother, and take only the young, in order that you may fare well, and have a long life."
So here we see, we are permitted to take the eggs, but first, we must be compassionate and considerate enough to send the mother bird away so that not only she does not witness the taking of her eggs, but importantly, she can go on to produce eggs elsewhere.
The mitzvah is key to living a good and long life – in other words we must be careful not to destroy the original things (such as the mother bird) that produce the things we need (the eggs). Helping the natural world renew and replace is the key to the sustainability of our planet.
Maimonides explains that this mitzva is a divine desire – in other words, Hashem’s will, but the reason for it, is to teach us compassion and to prevent us from having any traits of cruelty in our hearts. As the midrash says ‘the mitzvot were given only to refine the human being’, to benefit us, make our lives more holy and purify our characters.
It is very unusual for the Torah to describe a reward for a mitzvah. Rashi explains the reason that a reward is mentioned in this mitzvah of shiluach ha-ken (sending away the mother), is because the Torah is teaching us that if we are rewarded with a long and good life for doing such an easy mitzva, then we might believe we’d be even more rewarded for doing more demanding mitzvot!
One of the only other mitzvoth in the Torah where the reward of a long life is mentioned, is the mitzvah of honoring one's parents. This mitzvah too, is a special bond between a parent and child and describes an action which should be fulfilled naturally and without preparation and yet still the reward is great.
I know that I am lucky to have such a good and strong relationship with my parents. They are always helping me and guiding me and teaching me the right way to behave. I would like to believe that the respect and honour that I have for them comes naturally to me (although I’m not sure they would ALWAYS agree). Ironically this week’s sedra talks about the severe punishments given to a rebellious child. The punishments are so severe, that I took this as a warning! However, the Torah is also trying to motivate both the child and the parent to realising how important a parent-child relationship is. So I guess what I’m saying is – mum and dad – you need to watch out too!
As I mentioned earlier, Ki Teitsei talks about the mitzvah of how to fight wars. The opening line says ‘ Ki Teitsei lamilchama al-oyvehcha oonutno adonai elohecha byadcha vshavita shivyo’ – ‘when you go forth to battle against your enemy, the Lord thy G-d will deliver them into your hands and you shall carry them away as a captive’. This line made me think how relevant this is even today, especially with what Israel has been going through. We all know there are two sides to every battle, however, we also understand that even when the Jews go into battle, they do so with compassion. We can see this by the way Israel has been trying to minimize civilians casualties- by sending them warning letters to stay out of dangerous areas and helping those who are wounded even if they are the enemy. The importance of taking responsibility for one's actions even in warfare is as important as ever. Rashi explains that man can face every situation with the Torah's guidance. Every action has consequences that lead us along a certain path.
This is particularly close to my heart as I have been personally involved with a charity called One Family.
One Family aims to insure that the family network of Jews from all over the world, can be united, by giving support to those Israelis affected by terror attacks. It is one the first places the Goverment of Israel turns to for help after a terrorist attack.
In my old school school Sinai, I was privileged to have met and spoken to an injured former IDF soldier. It was a very emotional talk as he spoke about his experience in the war and how he lost a leg. He also had no family and turned to the charity One Family for help and support. This experience really touched me and I knew I wanted to help and be part of this charity. I was honored that I was chosen to take part in an art project where I produced a picture for a childrens’ Haggaddah which was then sold in order to raise money for this charity.
And then only a few months ago I took part in a charity event called ‘It’s a knock out’ where I was sponsored to compete against other teams racing each other on inflatables. The money raised went to One Family.
This week’s sedra has taught me that Hashem has given us these mitzvot in order to make us better people and to be more compassionate and understanding.
Now that I am BatMitzvah I feel the responsibility to think more carefully about the things I do and the impact it has on me, those around me and on the world. As we approach Rosh Hashannah and the high holy days, I feel that we all need to reflect and think about our actions and try to make the world a better place.